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Booking Colosseum underground tour: success!

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This forum has been invaluable to me the last couple months, so I wanted to give back a little by sharing my experience successfully booking a Colosseum underground tour this morning. Hopefully another newbie like me will find this helpful.

I downloaded Skype last night, used the one free call to call my fiance to test it out, and bought $10 worth of Skype credit (the smallest increment they allow) using my bank debit card. I had no major problems using the software; I just had to spend a little bit of time configuring the audio settings so it would work properly with my laptop's internal microphone.

This morning about 5:30am EST (11:30am in Rome), I used Skype to call Pierreci: +39 06 39967700. The recorded message is in rapid-fire Italian, and while I basically got the gist of it, I waited for the English version to be sure before pressing 0 for guided tours. Another recorded message, also followed by English, then I pressed 3 for individual admission tickets and guided tours.

A woman answered immediately and said something I didn't understand, so I said, "Buon giorno, parla inglese?" She answered, "Yes, I speak English." She had a bit of trouble hearing me at first; I basically ended up speaking at just below a shout for the majority of the call, but it got the job done. She spoke English with a thick accent, but I had no trouble understanding her.

She asked for the date, and when I said September 30, she repeated it back to me as September 13. I said, "No, thirty -- trenta!" and then she understood. I would highly recommend being familiar with the Italian words for relevant numbers, just in case you have a similar experience.

Fortunately for me, that date was still available! In fact, she rattled off all the available timeslots for an English tour: 9:40am, 12:20pm, 1pm, 3pm, and 4:20pm. I chose 9:40. She then asked how many people, and at this point I answered in English and Italian together: "Two, due". She repeated all the info so far -- date, time, and number of people -- and I confirmed.

When she began to tell me the cost, I said, "We will have RomaPasses," and she said the cost for just the tour by itself, if you're using a RomaPass as your Colosseum entrance, is €9.50 per person, for a total of €19. This was exactly what I had read when I researched it online, so that was a nice confirmation that I was in fact booking the tour I thought I was booking. ;)

Things had gone pretty smoothly when we were mostly dealing with numbers, but when she asked for a name for the reservation, and then later for the name on the credit card and an email address, it got a little more stressful for me. Part of it undoubtedly had to do with the fact that she couldn't hear me incredibly well to begin with, but for a minute there I think neither one of us had any idea what the other was saying. She kept repeating the same phrase, but I couldn't understand it at all, so I just kept repeating the name. Finally she worded it a little differently and I understood that she was asking me for the spelling. Duh! I thought that would be an ordeal too, but when I said the first letter, "C", she said, "C as in Cinderella?" Aha, now we're talkin'. So for every single letter of every single word for the reservation and the credit card and email address and everything, I gave an "as in" example. Even *that* was a little nerve-wracking -- it's hard to come up with words on the spot when there's already a language barrier and volume issues! We mostly stuck to Italian cities -- R as in Rome, M as in Milan, I as in Italy -- and although it was tedious, I feel relatively confident that she got it all.

She reconfirmed everything one last time by repeating it all back to me, then had me wait for a moment while she waited for the credit card payment to be approved. When it was, she gave me a confirmation code. This is the number sequence (mine was six digits) you give them when you get there (30 minutes before your reservation time) to receive your actual physical ticket.

And that's it! I called my credit card company to warn them of a charge in Italy, and then later this morning, my bank called to confirm that I had bought $10 worth of Skype credit to make an international call. (For the record, the call lasted nearly six minutes and cost me a whopping 33 cents total. Guess what I'll be using to call home when I'm actually *in* Italy?) I'm sorry I wrote such a novel-length report, but like I said, hopefully someone in my situation will stumble onto it and find it helpful. I'm sure everyone's experiences will be a little different, depending on your computer's audio setup and whether the person you're talking to speaks English as well as she did. But feel free to ask me any other questions if you like.


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